Where in the world would Northern Ireland be without its daily ration of bread? Every day our traditional soda and potato farls, Veda and cherry scones, a wee slice of wheaten and trays of tasty cakes and buns keep locals filled with goodness and visitors full of wonder at the power of our flour. With the aroma of freshly baked bread constantly in the air, the phenomenal day-to-day concoctions of our bakeries have been a proud part of our food heritage for centuries.
Mention bread and soon the conversation throws up misty-eyed memories of old favourites, proper bread servers, bread vans and the horses and carts before that.
The Mother’s Pride bakery in Derry~Londonderry, famous names like O’Hara’s, JB Kennedy’s and the inventor of the Belfast bap himself, Barney Hughes, are among the bread roll call of yesteryear.
Fast forward to today and from Irwin’s Nutty Crust to Ormo sodas and Sunblest Veda the big bakeries continue to keep local breads flying off the shelves.
Fold into the mix the vast number of home bakeries serving up traditional and creative new breads, and it’s easy to see our bread basket has never been in better shape. We’re not just preserving the skills and recipes of generations past, we’re pulling in awards left, right and centre.
Take Ann’s Pantry’s Great Taste Award-winning spelt and black pudding potato bread. Although this Larne bakery is well practised at serving up the classic breads, they know how to innovate with speciality flours and flavour combos too.
So does Great Taste winner Moditions, the dedicated gluten-free bakery in Ballymena.
The bread quality runs deep all over the country and in County Armagh the locals will be well acquainted with Linwoods’ fruit loaf and the likes of Yellow Door goodies, renowned for artisan breads, delicious scones and traditional cakes, tarts, gateaux and tray bakes.
Two-time Northern Ireland Bakery of the Year, Heatherlea Bakery is a top destination in County Down, while ‘breadies’ will travel for miles to Newcastle’s The Cookie Jar to get some award-winning traditional wheaten bannock – the recipe is a family heirloom.
It’s hard to imagine County Londonderry without Hunter’s at the Oven Door where the fresh bakes include traditional breads, cakes and pastries, while third-generation Ditty’s Bakery in Castledawson, stands out as one of the most famous bakers in Northern Ireland.
At Cherry Tree Home Bakery in Lisnaskea it’s all about the scones, pancakes, potato and soda farl staples, but delightful Madeira, boiled, lemon and blueberry cakes all go down a treat too.
Traditional baking at its best is the ethos of McGlaughlin’s Bakery in Cookstown, where the sweet-toothed are well catered for too with scrumptious tray bakes, pastries, fresh cream buns and customised cupcakes.
Baking is alive and well at home too. From fadge to fifteens and apple tarts to apple pancakes, many a household still bakes the family favourite that mum, granny, aunt or uncle used to make.
But should you want to raise your baking standards, check out Fresh from the Kitchen in Bangor, Wee Buns in County Tyrone or one of Northern Ireland’s many cookery schools, where classes on all things baking are readily available.
For more information on Northern Ireland visit discovernorthernireland.com